Art, History

Eastern Exchanges

Last week I attended the preview evening for Eastern Exchanges: East Asian Craft and Design at Manchester Art Gallery. This new, free, temporary exhibition replaces the Sensory War on the Gallery’s second floor and features many cutting edge pieces of Chinese, Japanese and Korean craft and design together with a wide range of historical examples. Many of the older objects are on loan from various public and private collections, including Manchester Museum. The exhibition is well-lit and definitely not short on displays – it features over 1500 objects. Gallery director Maria Balshaw was on-hand to give the opening speech and was particularly exited about the opportunity to display a large 19th century Japanese ‘norimono’, a kind of sedan, which has not been exhibited in 30 years.

A 19th Century Japanese Norimono

A 19th Century Japanese Norimono

I recently read Masao Yamaguchi’s fascinating article ‘The Poetics of Exhibition in Japanese Culture’ published in ‘Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics of Museum Display’ (1991). In it, he discusses the various techniques employed in Japanese exhibition spaces to transmit knowledge about objects. ‘Mitate’, is the Japanese art of citation – that is – the transposition of meaning upon an object through association with a broader and usually mythological context (i.e an accompanying image, sounds, or even another object). Mitate could have been a useful technique to employ at this exhibition, where the approach to displaying objects was one of Western familiarity – the objects were mainly displayed in isolation, in a stark, white environment with an accompanying caption. This, however, may well have been the point – after all, the main focus of the exhibition was to appreciate the aesthetics and design of the objects and many of the older objects had been collected for exactly that reason. The fact that this display is in an art gallery rather than a museum did seem to shift the focus of the ethnographic items onto appreciation of the visual, but this was not necessarily reductive of the object. The modern art and craft pieces were displayed separately, presumably to create a chronological dichotomy between the two spaces, and were impressive and beautiful.

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Meiji Period Japanese Satsuma Ware water-holder.

Meiji Period Japanese Satsuma Ware water-holder.

A selection of Japanese Tsuba (sword guards)

A selection of Japanese Tsuba (sword guards)

Japanese laquer box with intricate decoration

Japanese laquer box with intricate decoration

Suit of Japanese armour, on loan from Manchester Museum

Suit of Japanese armour, on loan from Manchester Museum

The exhibition is open for a relatively short eight weeks and I would definitely recommend going to have a look. It aspires to take the visitor on a journey through the last 300 years of East Asian arts and crafts, combining old with new, and I would say it very much succeeds in doing so.

Eastern Exchanges is at the Manchester Art Gallery until May 31st.

Karp, I and Lavine, D. (eds.) 1991. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. London: Smithsonian Institute Press.

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Archaeology, Art

Visible Diggers – Part 1

This week, we’ve been stepping up the meetings about the visible diggers project. To try and find answers to questions regarding whether students feel they are are valued and heard in the field and also whether their work during excavation is represented in the final report, we have devised a survey. This will be distributed shortly and I’ll share a sample copy with you when finalised. We will be presenting the results of this research, in some form, at the CIfA conference in Cardiff in April. The theme of the conference is ‘the Future of Your Profession,’ and there will be papers given on a wide range of issues regarding the future of the archaeological profession. You can read more about the conference and have a look at the session abstracts here. I’m really excited to be a part of this research and especially to be able to present our results at an academic conference where it could make a difference to the way archaeology is taught in the field.

Myself and other students taking a break at Dorstone Hill, Herefordshire 2014

Myself and other students taking a break at Dorstone Hill, Herefordshire 2014

This is our abstract, if we choose to give a paper, but may look at other ways to present the research at the conference:-

Visible diggers? Engagement and communication: a student perspective.

Matthew Hitchcock, Stephanie McCulloch, Liya Walsh (University of Manchester)

This is a session that is about the future of engagement, and we are the future of engagement! We are a team of students undertaking a piece of research to understand whether students feel valued, and indeed whether they are valued, in the interpretive process. In this paper we will present the findings of our study and we will think about the implications of them for how engagement occurs – can the experiences of students help us think about how we communicate in the field with other audiences who do archaeology?

We’ll also be creating a separate blog with further detail of the project’s progress, which I’ll post a link to on here.

In other news, the opening events at the Whitworth Art Gallery came to a spectacular climax on Saturday evening after a series of performances and lectures in and around the gallery throughout the day. A choir performance with synchronised fireworks over the gallery saw an end to an week that saw an immense amount of visitors to the gallery. You can view some photos of the evening and other events from the week on the gallery’s instagram page here.

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Art

The Whitworth Art Galley Big Reveal

I attended the preview of the £15 million renovation of the Whitworth Art Galley on Saturday and it is easy to see how this money had been spent. The gallery is absolutely stunning and it was great that the gallery decided to open its doors to it’s members and the local community before the press and even big names in the art world. The photography embargo was officially lifted today – so that the images of the gallery and of the evening could be revealed on social media at the same time.

The Landscape Gallery

The Landscape Gallery

A Gallery showing part of the original exposed brickwork and Sarah Lucas's 'Tits in Space' wallpaper

A Gallery showing part of the original exposed brickwork and Sarah Lucas’s ‘Tits in Space’ wallpaper

The central open-plan gallery

The central gallery

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A Mixture of old and new portraiture

A Mixture of old and new portraiture

Galley curator Maria Ballshaw’s speech was inspiring – she was keen to thank all the ‘Friends of the Whitworth,’ some of whom had donated to reach the £15 million target, along with a heritage lottery grant and funding from the University of Manchester. Along with being a little overwhelmed at just how much hard work had been put into the renovation and the positive reaction from the crowds which attended, she was keen to tell us all about artist Cornelia Parker’s use of graphene. The substance, which is just one carbon atom thick, is around a hundred times stronger than steel and was invented right here in Manchester by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who won the Nobel prize in Physics 2010 for its development. Cornelia has carefully taken samples of graphite from several gallery etchings, including one by William Blake, and used it to create graphene, which she will then use to ‘trigger a meteor shower’ over the gallery when it officially opens this Saturday (I assume this will consist of some sort of fireworks display). It will be interesting to see how this turns out, along with the several other performances and exhibits which will be  both in the gallery and in the park itself throughout the day on Saturday. From what I have seen so far, I’m sure it will be spectacular, and I’m looking forward to the newly reopened gallery taking its place among the richly cultural and socially inclusive galleries and museums of Manchester.

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